Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Conquest
Sailing Date: July 1st, 2007
Carnival Cruise Lines
This was our first cruise and our four
kids (12, 11, 10 and 2) accompanied us on it. Overall we had a great time and
would do it again.
Boarding the ship
This was a major source of concern for us. We wondered how long we would have to wait in line and how the kids would handle it – especially the 2 year old! We don’t have passports and were told we could use our birth certificates. This is true but we didn’t realize until the night before we were supposed to leave that I only have one issued by the hospital. In a big panic we searched the Carnival website and others to see if this would suffice. Universally we discovered that you have to have a birth certificate issued by the state and not one by a hospital and I would not be able to board the ship. Further, since we didn’t purchase the travel insurance (for around $800) we were convinced we would not be getting a refund on our tickets. My wife called Carnival’s 800 number and they told her I would not be allowed to board but we could go and try. I then called Carnival and was told in no uncertain terms that I would not be allowed to board and that it was not Carnival’s decision – it was up to US Immigration. We went to bed Saturday evening not knowing what we would do. I called Carnival again at 4am in the morning and spoke to a nice lady who said she’d estimate my chances at 50-50. With that information we began the 4-hour drive to Galveston. When we got to the terminal I got in line with 2 kids while my wife waited with the 2 other kids and the luggage – we didn’t want to give our luggage if we weren’t going to be allowed to board the ship. The line moved somewhat quickly but I could only focus on the birth certificate issue. When we finally got to the front of the line (about 1.5 hours later) I was greeted by a Carnival employee and not a government employee. I explained my situation and the man said “no problem!” Relieved, I called my wife and told her to get in line and that we were good to go! The hour and a half I waited for her and the other 2 kids didn’t seem like such a big deal this time! We didn’t take any alcohol on board but I wish I had as I saw A LOT of people with cans of beer even the ship sells bottles!! We did take a 12 pack of Diet Coke and had no problem with it.
We had adjoining cabins and they were a bit larger than we anticipated they would be but still not very big. I would suggest bringing a few extra hangars as we only had 7 or 8 in each room and they went quick! The beds were very comfortable and we were given LOTS of pillows. We had a stateroom with a window but no balcony, as we didn’t feel that would be wise with a 2 year old. The room attendants did a great job of keeping the rooms clean and organized – they do a tremendous job!
Entertainment and Casino
We went to 2 shows – Point and Click and a magic show. Point and Click was so bad we left after 5 minutes. We couldn’t stop laughing and just had to leave! My wife and older kids went to the magic show and liked it – the outfits were a bit revealing for the kids but overall they seemed happy with it. I hit the casino twice – won a couple of hundred dollars the first night on slots and then lost it back a few nights later on slots and also on blackjack. It was fun and I was glad to at least break even. The slots were VERY tight except for the first night. I don’t know if this was planned or if I just used up all my good luck on Day 1!
There were 3 pools on the Lido deck plus a very small kids pool on the 10th (?) deck. The pools were not nearly as big as I thought they’d be and were generally pretty crowded. The kid’s pool was a joke and we left after 5 minutes. One nice feature on the pools was that they had a 2 or 3-foot wide shelf with maybe 6 inches of water around the edges. It was nice to sit there and our 2-year could toddle around there. They were very strict about not letting you have a beer or drink near the pool. That was kind of annoying but I see the logic in it!
All four of our kids attended Camp Carnival. Our 12 year old liked it very much as she basically roamed the ship with 3 or 4 kids she met there. Our 10 and 11-year-old boys didn’t like it as much. They would go to a few of the activities but had more fun hanging out with other kids outside of the Camp. It was great for our 2-year old as we left him there while we did the excursions. We didn’t utilize the babysitting but a number of guests did. Camp Carnival probably didn’t live up to my expectations but I was glad they had it – especially for the 2-year old. The kids absolutely loved the cruise!
We had the early seating in the Monet dining room but only went 3 nights including one of the formal dinners. We were seated with another family with kids and enjoyed them quite a bit. Carnival did a good job of grouping tables with people with common interests/situations. It wasn’t awkward at all eating with them and we would have loved to seen more of them. Our problem was the 5:45 seating didn’t really give us enough time to get to the room and cleaned up in time for dinner. We ate at the buffet on the Lido deck for some dinners and all breakfasts. The food was pretty good and the lines moved quickly. The only issue we had was it seemed to be closed or in the process of closing when we would get there for dinner/late lunch. The sandwich counter was good but always had a line. The pizzeria was good and my kids loved that and the ice cream more than anything! The room service was prompt but the menu was a little limited – no pizza or even hamburgers on it. We purchased the soda cards for the kids and while it was over $100 for all 3 they were nice to have. Beers were $4.50 plus 15% gratuity. Be careful with the drink of the day or with ordering daiquiris or pina coladas. They will try to sell you the souvenir glasses rather than just put it in a regular cup. This can run up your tab pretty quickly!
We didn’t take the kids off the boat in Jamaica as we’d heard some horror stories. Instead, my wife and I went to Sandals. The beach was beautiful and it was nice to get free drinks (well not exactly free as we paid $190 to go there!) I would recommend it as being ok but I don’t think I’d do it again. Not sure what I’d do in Jamaica.
Grand Cayman was absolutely beautiful. We did the Turtle Farm, Hell and Stingray tour. The Turtle farm was quite impressive and the kids loved holding the turtles. Hell wasn’t that big of a deal and we were only there about 10 minutes. Swimming with the stingrays was awesome. They are very friendly and the guides gave great support in the water and on the boat. My older sons loved it but my daughter was back on the boat within 5 minutes! We were somewhat hesitant about doing this but I would tell others to do it without a doubt.
Cozumel was fun, too. We did the Deluxe Party and Snorkel trip. The snorkeling was wonderful and the drinks on board the ship made it a pretty good value. I would highly recommend this excursion, too.
Everyone was very nice and accommodating, as you would imagine. The only staff that weren’t the friendliest were the bar staff. There were times when we’d stand at the bars for 5 minutes waiting for a drink even though it wasn’t at all busy. They were nice but not as friendly or anxious to serve you as you may expect. Not a huge hassle but I thought I’d mention it!
My wife and daughter both went to the spa and had a great time. It wasn’t cheap but was worth it for the enjoyment they got from it.
We chose to do the self assist (meaning we carried all of our own bags off the ship) and got lucky when they called our deck (1) first. We were in our car by 9am and the process went very smoothly. The Customs people were even friendly and we had no problems.
We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise and would definitely do it again – this time with a passport, which I’m told will be required in January 2008! It was like anything else in life – not perfect but you get out of it what you put into it. If you go to have a good time you will. If you are looking to nit pick and be unhappy you can find something there, too! My advice is to go looking to have a great time and see some wonderful places and understand there are 3,000 people on a ship so problems are bound to arise!